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Some Smiles Are Irreplaceable

October 19, 2015 | News & Press Releases

Some smiles are irreplaceable. Those are ones Laura Bramsen wants to save.

Bramsen is the photo manager at the Hy-Vee Drugstore in Mason City, where she's trying to reunite a decade's worth of forgotten photographs with the folks who left them behind in the store's self-service scanner.

"I never, never throw them away," the self-described genealogy buff explains. "It could be a 100-year-old picture of someone's great-great grandmother. Bramsen holding the bookI'm very passionate about family history."

Thanks to Bramsen, the wayward images survived the move from the old Hy-Vee Drugtown on Illinois Street to the Drugstore on Fourth Street SW. She had mounted them on a display board, hoping someone would recognize a face or a place. Finally, she painstakingly put them in protective plastic and organized an album that customers can leaf through in search of something long misplaced.

On the front of the book is a handwritten note: "We could use your help! Do you know who these people are? Please take a look and help them find their home!"

Although many of the images have gone unclaimed for several years, Bramsen is making sure they are never forgotten. Her goal is to reunite each of the photos with its owner.

"I think a lot of times they were left by people who were maybe preparing for a funeral or a reunion, scanning copies, and their minds were just somewhere else at the time," she explains.

There's the out-of-focus, black and white shot of a man in a canoe wearing a bowler, a paddle resting on his knee. A little girl, maybe 3 years old, stands alone in the middle of a lawn and grins into the sunshine. A man in a military uniform stands next to another man in street clothes. Brothers saying good-bye. There's the family dressed in '70s-era clothing. It looks like they are heading out to some big event. The son is making rabbit ears behind his father's head. A stoic man in a green striped golf short holds an infant. Probably his grandchild. And there's the photo of military helicopter that Bramsen says was flown during the Vietnam era.

They are pieces of someone else's lives. Someone else's history. To Bramsen, they are precious keepsakes.

Like the photo of the woman and two small children dressed in formal attire.

"A woman in the store saw that one and said: 'Oh my gosh, that's my grandma, with me and my cousin on Easter Sunday!' It was probably a 50-year-old picture, and it was one of the photos that I had had for about eight years," says Bramsen.

It's easy to hear the satisfaction in her voice.

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